• Growth in an unstable fashion; rehabilitate PNR!

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    Ej Lopez

    Ej Lopez

    Our claim of economic development above the thrust and ambition of becoming an economic tiger seems not to augur well with a current news bulletin of economic significance (or is it insignificance?). A few days back, according to a US-based think tank, the Philippines ranks 67th out of the 89 most miserable countries of the world. Primary to the Philippine inclusion in this infamous index is the growing unemployment rate in the country over recent years. This has been complemented by the fact that the April 2014 inflation rate climbed to 4.1 percent from 3.9 percent in March, which is much higher than the 2.6 percent recorded in the same period last year.

    Predictably, because of other indicators that seem to further erode the local purchasing power, the possibility of a higher inflation rate looms on the horizon. Supplemental to this is the slowdown in our local economic activity, which for a time showed positive developments. From a high 7.7 percent expansion in our gross domestic product (GDP) in the first quarter of 2013, the local economy grew at a slower pace in the first quarter of 2014 at 6 percent. Although it may still be within our local authorities’ target, the trend of our local indicators point to the possibility of declining growth after having experienced its highest the past few years of PNoy’s term.

    By and large, the local economic activity is still quite encouraging despite the not-so-conclusive performance of foreign market indicators, which influence local expansion. Generally, after a robust last quarter of economic activity that is characterized by massive private and public spending, the first quarter of the succeeding year would normally fall flat in performance, although may not necessarily be that discouraging.

    The local stock market remains pretty sound and within the 6,700 index points level after several days of gain. The bourse has proven its stability and versatility despite several major swings in the major markets outside of our local sphere. Local market resiliency continues to buoy our market, which puts us within the local authorities’ target of economic gains in time for the Asean Economic Integration (AEI) in 2015. That should be a year to look forward to because it is bound to test our mettle and strength in the area of economic competitiveness and to be toe to toe with our Asean counterparts, likewise with the rest of the world.

    Mass transport system
    Despite several attempts to alleviate the commuters from their daily “calvary” with their commuting experiences, still the problem of daily commuting inconvenience persists. Programs have been made to ease the daily bout to get a ride in jeepneys, buses, MRT, trains and the like, but still, convenience seems to evade the hapless commuters. Other neighboring countries may have the same or even more number of commuters that traverse the cities daily, yet their government has long solved this predicament in one way or another.

    It is distressing to see the people who support our government by way of paying their taxes going through these difficulties. Taxes are outright deducted from their paycheck and yet their basic needs seem to be neglected, if not treated with a cold shoulder by authorities who are supposed to address this existing malady. Time and again people have been clamoring for a mass transport system that will address this age-old problem of commuters; and yet up to now the government seems to have other things in mind. Now that the problem seems to have gone from bad to worse, authorities are saying that commuters using the MRT will have to bear the pain of waiting for another two years—which implies that at least it is better than waiting perpetually.

    Admittedly, the existing government and private facilities cannot cope with the fast growing number of commuters, particularly in the metropolis. Aside from this problem cited is the incessant traffic congestion that appears to be here to stay. Yet the development of major transport facilities has continuously been overlooked, such as the Philippine National Railways commuter train. This for many is the most affordable and most convenient means of transportation.

    Despite continuous calls for its rehabilitation, authorities seem to be lukewarm to the idea of rehabilitating this facility. Perhaps it is not much of an income generating facility and may be quite costly to maintain but, (unlike the MRT and LRT which are costlier), the income it generates more than compensates for its cost. While commuter PNR train imposes cheaper fares, its capacity to serve a greater number of commuters at an affordable fare serves its purpose of bringing convenience to the people and the society in general. For after all, the government exists for the people and not the other way around.

    For comments e-mail: doc.ejlopez@gmail.com with cc to: opinion@manilatimes.net.

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